Photo Shoot Prep Checklist

As a professional real estate photographer and videographer my goal is always to capture images of your client’s homes in the highest quality that will impress buyers and attract offers. To ensure your photo shoot goes smoothly and safely, I’ve developed this photo prep checklist of things you and your client should do prior to your scheduled photo shoot. Download the guide for your seller client using the link below.

Exterior Prep

  • Clear the cars: Make sure no cars are in the driveway. If possible, also move cars from the street in front of the home. We want as clear a view as possible of your property.
  • Hide trashcans: Trashcans can be placed on the side of the property or in the garage.
  • Hide hoses: Do this the day before the shoot since hoses can drip water onto the pavement when being moved, leaving puddles in your pictures.
  • Prep the yard: Do at least 24 hours prior to your photo shoot. Yard should be mowed and cleared of any toys, tools, etc.
  • Turn off sprinklers: Do not water the day of the shoot to prevent puddles on pavement.
  • Pick up poop: If you have a dog, make sure all of their droppings are cleared from the yard.
  • Prep pool and spa: If you have a pool and/or spa, please have them clean with covers removed. For spas, provide instructions to the realtor on how to turn it on. Remove floats, noodles, etc…
  • Prep water features: If you have fountains, waterfalls, etc., please clean them and provide instructions to the realtor on how to turn them on.
  • Clean patio furniture: Dust and remove cobwebs from all outdoor furniture. Do not hose down your furniture the day of your shoot, since this can create puddles.

Interior Prep

  • Declutter kitchen: A few items on the counters are usually fine, but dishes, sponges, rags, etc. should be put away. It’s best to remove all magnets, pictures, etc. from the refrigerator and remove throw rugs from the floor.
  • Declutter bathrooms: Toothpaste, toothbrushes, razors, and other “personal” items should be hidden. Decorative unused soaps, candles, flowers, etc. are preferred. It’s also good to remove all throw rugs from the floor.
  • Prep bedrooms: All bedrooms should have their beds made and items put away.
  • Hide trashcans: Trashcans can distract so it’s best to hide all of them in closets or the garage.
  • Hide portable fans and heaters: Ceiling fans are selling items but portable fans and space heaters can give the wrong impression. It’s best to hide all portable fans and heaters in closets or the garage.
  • Hide cords and remotes: Sometimes electrical cords can’t be hidden, but you will have more appealing pictures if you can hide TV remotes, game consoles, and any noticeable cords. This is especially true in vacant properties.
  • Clear entryways: Remove all shoes, umbrellas, and similar items from entryways.
  • Open blinds with views: Your indoor photos will show outdoor views if there are views, or just light if a window looks onto a neighbor or other unappealing view.
  • Turn on lights: Before I arrive, please make sure all interior lights are turned on. If need-be, please replace all burned-out bulbs at least 24 hours before the photo shoot.
  • Turn off ceiling fans: Before I arrive, please make sure all ceiling fans are turned off.

General Prep

  • Be shoot-ready: Cleaning and staging needs to be done before I arrive, preferably the day before your photo shoot. I may move small items (flowers, small pictures, etc.) to improve photo composition, but larger items need to be in place before I arrive, and staging accessories need to be in place as well.
  • Secure or remove pets: I love pets but we can’t have them around for your photo shoot. Dogs must be secured or off the property to ensure the safety of myself and my equipment. MLS rules also prohibit people and pets from being in pictures. Cats should be secured as well, although they usually pose fewer problems than dogs (cats often just hide). It’s also a good idea to hide pet food and water bowls as well.
  • Plan not to be seen: All occupants should plan on either being off the property or remain in areas where they can’t be seen during the photo shoot. Rooms overlap in the photos, people can cause shadows and reflections, and there is risk to equipment that will be setup throughout the property.
  • Use the garage for storage: I normally don’t shoot garages, so this is a great place to store items you’d like to hide.

Before & After Examples

There are different perspectives on what is considered clean, organized and decluttered. Of course there is no right or wrong answer, but generally speaking, ‘less’ is better than ‘more’ in real estate photography.

Below are a few example of photos that show a typical home BEFORE it is prepared for a photo shoot and AFTER some adjustments were made to make it more photo ready.

Kitchen Example

It may seem extreme at first, but kitchens generally look best when there the counter tops are completely empty, including small appliances. Although this kitchen is actually over 15 years old, with relatively new appliances, the bare counters provides the viewer with the impression the kitchen was recently remodeled and has yet to be used for cooking. You may also notice smaller details, such as the burned out light bulb on the ceiling in the before photo, which was replaced with a new bulb for the after photo.

Bathroom Example

Similar to kitchens, bathrooms generally look much more appealing when there are little to no items on the vanity counter top and in the shower. In the before photo there were also other items on the wall inside the shower (hidden by the curtain). By removing those items I was able to open the curtain to reveal the entire shower and tub, as well as the window view. You may also notice smaller details such as the changing of the frame on the wall above the water tank.

Living Area Example

This example for this living room applies to almost all living areas. The changes here might be more subtle, but notice how much nicer the sofa looks in the after photo with the removal of two blankets and one of the pillows. Remember the rule that less is almost always better in photos. The coffee table was also moved slightly to the center and now has a simple bouquet of flowers. I also removed the items from under the end table and replaced the wedding photo above the fireplace with wall art. I also opened the curtain to reveal the outside view. You may also notice that I digitally added a couple of items to the after photo. Can you see what those two additions are and how they impact the image?